As all of us are aware, Christian Yelich won the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 2018, and he came in second to Cody Bellinger 2019. If Yelich continues to perform at the level we have seen over the past two season for another two, three, four, or more seasons, he will go down as one of the better players to ever play this game. However, if Yelich had won the award in 2019, he would be going for a third straight MVP in 2020. Winning three in a row would put him in “rare air.” Only Barry Bonds has done it, and he likely did it with the help of PEDs.
There is a very good argument that Yelich should have won the MVP award in 2019. If he does not bounce a foul ball off his knee cap in early September, he likely would have. Even with that, his offensive number were superior to anyone in the National League.
As I suggested in early November, Yelich should have won the MVP. Comparing and contrasting his performance to Cody Bellinger offers reasons why. Offensively there was no comparison.
Christian Yelich: .329/.429/.671/1.100
Cody Bellinger: .305/.406/.629/1.035
Yelich was one of the most “clutch” players the game has ever seen in 2019. That alone should have won him the award. Bellinger does not close to Yelich in this category.
2 outs with RISP: Yelich (.273/.467/.659/1.126), Bellinger (.241/.397/.407/.804)
Late and close: Yelich (.443/.547/.829/1.375), Bellinger (.260/.368/.521/.888)
High leverage: Yelich (.384/.460/.791/1.251), Bellinger (.314/.397/.637/1.034)
Innings 7-9: Yelich (.405/.513/.786/1.299), Bellinger (.325/.421/.687/1.108)
Against power pitchers: Yelich (.367/.469/.717/1.185), Bellinger (.297/.394/.534/.928)
Bellinger gets the award because he was the superior defender, Yelich missed the last month of the season (during which time Bellinger failed to play at a high level), and quite possibly Yelich plays in Milwaukee and Bellinger plays in L.A. As a result, Yelich does not get the chance to go after a third straight MVP.
The difference in coming in second for the MVP award in 2019 and winning the award would have been substantial. Going after three straight MVPs would have increased the level of attention of him as a player. We would not be talking about Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger as comparable. There would only be Mike Trout and Christian Yelich. The Milwaukee Brewers would be team focused on by a national audience, which is something out of the ordinary for this franchise. It would have just been a source of extreme pride for the city of Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin as well.
Just as a reference, the players to win more than one MVP award in their careers include: Barry Bonds, Stan Musial, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Albert Pujols, Mike Trout, Jimmie Fox, Yogi Berra, Lou Gehrig, Alex Rodriguez, Mike Schmidt, Roy Campanella, Ted Williams, Hank Greenberg, Rogers Hornsby, Frank Thomas, Frank Robinson, Miguel Cabrera, Joe Morgan, Ernie Banks, Johnny Bench, Juan Gonzalez, Hal Newhouser, Mickey Cocheran, Walter Johnson, Cal Ripkin Jr., Dale Murphy, and Robin Yount.
Of that list only eight players have three or more MVP awards. Everyone of them are in the Hall of Fame or are not eligible because they are still playing (Trout and Pujols). The exception of course is Barry Bonds.
If Christian Yelich was to win a second MVP, he would go down in the pantheons of time as one of the best players to play. At the same time, should he already have two MVPs and be in this conversation? Should he also be playing for his third consecutive MVP award?
Because the voters for the MVP award decided to the MVP should be Cody Bellinger, it can be argued that they robbed Christian Yelich of the chance to do something that only one other player in the history of the game has done; win three straight MVP awards. What a story that would have been for Yelich, Milwaukee, and Major League Baseball.
Baseball statistics courtesy of Fangraphs